Pam Anderson (Colorado)
In 2022, Republican Pam Anderson made a bid to unseat incumbent Democrat Jena Griswold as Colorado‘s Secretary of State. Anderson brought experience from her past roles as a county clerk, but ultimately came up short against Griswold in November. While Anderson’s loss was largely expected in the blue-leaning state, her campaign still provides insights into the future of the Secretary of State office in Colorado.
Background on Pam Anderson
Early Life and Education
Pam Anderson was born in Compton, California in 1963. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history from California Lutheran University. Later, she received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado Denver.
Before running for Secretary of State, Anderson had served as an elected county clerk for several years. Her political career began when she was elected Wheat Ridge City Clerk in 2003. She served in that position until 2007.
In 2007, Anderson was elected as the Clerk for Jefferson County. She went on to hold that job for eight years, stepping down in 2015. During her tenure as county clerk, Anderson gained valuable insights into running elections. She also served a term as president of the Colorado County Clerk’s Association.
After leaving her clerk role, Anderson founded a consulting firm focused on government relations and nonprofit management. This experience helped round out her skillset ahead of her statewide run.
Anderson’s 2022 Secretary of State Campaign
Anderson officially launched her Secretary of State campaign in September 2021, joining a crowded GOP field. Her top opponents in the Republican primary were Tina Peters and Mike O’Donnell.
Peters, the clerk of Mesa County, was considered highly controversial for her unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 election. Anderson presented herself as the more mainstream, experienced choice compared to Peters.
In the June 2022 Republican primary, Anderson prevailed with 43% of the vote. Her victory was largely seen as a win for the establishment wing of the Colorado GOP.
General Election Against Jena Griswold
After clinching the Republican nomination, Anderson shifted focus to her general election challenge against Jena Griswold. Griswold had been elected Colorado’s Secretary of State in 2018, flipping the seat blue.
Key Campaign Issues and Messaging
Anderson centered her campaign on the themes of competence, transparency, and bipartisanship. She emphasized her extensive experience managing elections as a county clerk. One of her goals was restoring voter confidence and modernizing the state’s election systems.
Meanwhile, Griswold touted her accomplishments in office like creating a new cybersecurity unit and expanding access to voting. She also attacked Anderson as an “extreme candidate” who represented Trump’s stolen election lies.
Fundraising and Endorsements
The candidates were closely matched in fundraising, though Griswold held a slight cash advantage. Anderson brought in about $600,000 personally and raised $1.2 million total. Griswold raised around $1.5 million for her reelection campaign.
Anderson scored endorsements from high profile Colorado Republicans like Heidi Ganahl and Ken Buck. Griswold was endorsed by prominent Democrats including Senator Michael Bennet.
Election Results and Aftermath
In the November 8th general election, Griswold defeated Anderson by over 13 percentage points. The incumbent Democrat cruised to reelection, winning 55% to Anderson’s 42% share of the vote.
Anderson conceded the race, acknowledging that she came up short but was proud of the campaign she ran. The results showed that Griswold maintained the advantage in this office despite a tough national environment for Democrats.
Analysis of Anderson’s Failed Campaign
Factors Leading to Her Defeat
While she was considered the strongest potential GOP nominee, Anderson still faced an uphill climb in the general election. Colorado’s blue lean gave Griswold built-in advantages. Additionally, incumbents are difficult to take down without major scandals or vulnerabilities.
Some observers felt Anderson failed to articulate an effective case for why voters should oust Griswold after just one term. She also struggled to overcome the partisan dynamics in Colorado that favored the Democratic candidate.
Critiques of Anderson’s Campaign
Some Republicans criticized Anderson’s campaign as playing it too safe. For instance, she did not echo Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election even as parts of the base demanded it. This may have cost her enthusiasm among some GOP voters.
There was also a sense that Anderson leaned too heavily on her credentials rather than articulating a compelling vision. She lacked hard-hitting attacks on Griswold’s record. Her campaign rhetoric often felt vague compared to Griswold’s bold progressive stances.
Her Legacy and Impact
Despite losing decisively, Anderson still made history as the first Republican nominee for Secretary of State in over 60 years not to have previously held the office. She showed it was possible for a credible, experienced candidate to emerge in this new era for the Colorado GOP.
Going forward, Anderson’s example as a county elections official could inspire more people with that background to seek higher state office. Her candidacy revealed an appetite for non-extreme candidates among some Republican voters.
The Future of the Secretary of State Office
Griswold’s Second Term
Griswold’s reelection win signals she will likely remain Colorado’s Secretary of State for years to come. She will have four more years to advance her priorities like increasing voter access, securing elections against threats, and pushing progressive policies.
With Trump off the ballot, Griswold may shift away from a national profile focused on combating election lies. She could concentrate more on Modernizing voting and implementing reforms in Colorado. Her comfortable win could also embolden Griswold to pursue more ambitious left-leaning goals.
Potential 2026 Candidates
As the incumbent, Griswold would be heavily favored for another term in 2026 if she runs again. But if she opts against a third campaign, the race could be wide open on both sides.
Republicans with local elections experience like Anderson could make another bid for the office. Democrats have a deep bench of potential candidates like State Senator Faith Winter or Representative Janet Buckner. Both parties will be eyeing Secretary of State as a key target in future election cycles.
While she came up short in 2022, Pam Anderson marked an important milestone as the Colorado GOP’s most viable Secretary of State nominee in decades. Her background as an election administrator lent credibility but proved insufficient to take down incumbent Jena Griswold. Going forward, Anderson’s candidacy demonstrated a template for Republicans to compete in statewide races rooted in competence instead of extremes. However, the 2022 results underscored Griswold’s dominant position heading into her second term. Anderson’s defeat reaffirmed the obstacles for the Colorado Republican Party in the era of Trump and heightened partisan polarization. Yet she may have opened the door for others to follow with serious, experience-focused campaigns for Secretary of State.
What previous roles did Pam Anderson hold before running for Secretary of State?
Anderson served as the city clerk for Wheat Ridge, Colorado from 2003-2007. She then worked as the county clerk for Jefferson County, Colorado from 2007-2015.
How much money did Anderson raise for her 2022 campaign?
Anderson raised around $1.2 million total for her Secretary of State campaign. This included about $600,000 in personal funds she contributed.
Did Anderson repeat Trump’s false election fraud claims in her campaign?
No, unlike some other Republican candidates in 2022, Anderson did not echo Trump’s debunked assertions that the 2020 election was stolen. She ran on a platform of restoring voter confidence and election integrity.
What percentage of the vote did Anderson lose by in the general election?
Democratic incumbent Jena Griswold defeated Anderson by 13.4 percentage points in the November election. The vote totals were 55.1% for Griswold and 42.1% for Anderson.
Who are potential future candidates for Colorado Secretary of State in 2026?
Some possibilities include State Senator Faith Winter or State Rep. Janet Buckner for the Democrats. Pam Anderson or other Republicans with election administration experience could also run again.